Today Victoria Tait is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Jackal & Hide, the latest book in her Kenya Kanga mysteries series.
Welcome, Victoria. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
Jackal and Hide is the fourth book in my Kenya Kanga Mystery series. The series is set in Kenya and revolves around a silver-haired amateur sleuth. She is a community vet and with her diverse group of friends she helps the local police solve crimes.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
The idea for the story came from one of Miss Marple’s Tuesday Night Club tales, in Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems. I am intrigued by how people see each other and that wearing something bright, or bold, can alter that perception.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
My books follow the calendar year around actual events which take place in Kenya. Jackal & Hide is set in June when the Lewa Marathon takes place. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a UNESCO Heritage site. The marathon is renowned for its tough course, along dirt roads over undulating African plains. Runners usually see wildlife such as giraffes, zebra and gazelles. Some characters compete in the marathon and the story’s events take place around and during it.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
For my characters, I have an idea of the type of personality I need for the role, and then the person begins to take shape in my mind. I sometime look up images of people on the internet, and once I find someone I’m able to build their character.
In each book I’ve introduced characters, and many join the journey and continue through the series. Sometimes, seemingly unimportant characters muscle their way in and demand more prominent roles in future stories.
Jackal & Hide has a large cast. Mama Rose, the protagonist, has personal issues which tend to pull her away from the main mystery. The other characters take up the investigation and effectively report back to her, and she solves the crime in the end. Of all my books so far, characterisation dominate this story and adds a huge depth to it. I was in tears when I wrote some scenes.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Mama Rose’s home town, and locations such as Dormans coffee shop, were introduced in previous books. Another restaurant where characters spend time, and the local cottage hospital, are based on actual places which I have adapted for the story.
Aureus Lodge is also based on a real property in Borana conservancy. Although I have not visited it, I have stayed at similar lodges, and I’ve used images from the internet to develop Aureus, and describe it in the book. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and the Lewa Marathon, are based on my own experiences of running and helping at the event.
I try to describe the look, feel and smell of the locations. In respect of the conservancies I wanted to portray my own feeling of insignificance in a vast and generally untamed landscape.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
I’ve now developed a process whereby I write notes in a separate A4 booklet for each book. I think of a theme, or topic, which I research and write up in the booklet. This may lead me to consider other themes, and although I don’t use everything I research, I’m drawn into the story world.
Some of the themes are factual such as looking after baby ostriches, or reintroducing jackals into the wild. Other topics are more character based such as the impact an illness, or an event in a character’s past, might have on the way that person views the world.
Regarding plot, I start with a theme and develop it out. I consider potential causes of death, how a murder could take place and be covered up, and how the murderer and victim interact with established characters.
Whilst writing the book I continue researching particular aspects as they arise and jot my ideas in my booklet.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
The first three books in the series have introduced characters and the issues they face. Jackal & Hide develops and expands on these and draws various threads together. The subtitle is a ‘Compassionate Cozy Murder Mystery’ because there is sorrow and grief, and the characters need to help each other cope with it. As I said previously, I was very emotional writing the story, and I hope readers feel some of that when they read the book. I hope you enjoy Jackal & Hide.
Thank you for answering my questions, Victoria, and good luck with Jackal & Hide, the latest book in the Kenya Kanga mystery series.
The novel is available online at the following retailers:
About Victoria Tait: Victoria is the author of the enchanting Kenya Kanga Mystery series. She’s drawn on 8 years of experience living in rural Kenya, with her family, to write vivid and evocative descriptions. Her readers feel the heat, taste the dryness and smell the dust of Africa. Her elderly amateur sleuth, “Mama Rose” Hardie is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple reincarnated and living in Kenya.
Like all good military wives, Victoria follows the beat of the drum and currently lives in Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has two fast growing teenage boys and enjoys horse riding and mountain biking.